Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong rolled up his sleeve for the Covid-19 vaccine injection yesterday, as the nationwide vaccination effort to combat the coronavirus swung into high gear.
A left-hander, PM Lee was administered the shot in his right arm by nurse Fatimah Mohd Shah, and experienced no side effects despite a 30-minute precautionary wait.
"It is painless, it is effective and it is important," he told reporters at Singapore General Hospital (SGH), where he received his first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the only one to be approved here so far.
"I hope that Singaporeans will take it up as we roll it out."
The Health Ministry's director of medical services Kenneth Mak, as well as 88 healthcare staff, also received their shots yesterday, as the vaccination drive for healthcare workers and front-line staff gets under way.
The vaccine is free and will be rolled out progressively, with most people here able to get vaccinated by the end of the year.
The elderly, those at greater risk of severe disease and those in jobs or settings with a high risk of super-spreading events will be able to receive the Covid-19 jabs from next month.
Widespread vaccinations will be critical in ending the pandemic and allowing life to become more normal around the world.
While Covid-19 numbers in Singapore remain low, they have been inching up as measures were relaxed since phase three of reopening started on Dec 28.
Imported cases, in particular, have been on the rise, as more people are allowed into the country.
There were eight new cases in the community in the past week, and 10 the week before.
Yesterday, there were 23 new coronavirus cases, taking Singapore's total to 58,836.
As the pandemic continues to rage around the world, countries are urgently rolling out Covid-19 vaccinations, with Britain the first to start a mass vaccination drive with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Dec 8.
Singapore had launched a small-scale vaccination exercise on 40 staff at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases on Dec 30 to test the roll-out process.
PM Lee will be taking his second dose of the vaccine in three weeks.
"We have got ample vaccines coming in, we ordered them early. We have enough for everybody in Singapore, all the residents, all the citizens and even the non-citizens who are staying here," he said yesterday.
He added: "It will make us safer, and it will make you and your loved ones safer too. So, please take it when you get it."
Senior staff nurse Fatimah, 41, a veteran of almost 20 years at SGH, learnt the night before that she was going to be the one administering PM Lee's injection.
She was "a bit nervous", but said she felt honoured, her smile shining through her mask in the wefie that PM Lee took with her later.
PM Lee, who posted photos of his experience on Facebook, wrote: "In the gentle and capable hands of Senior Staff Nurse Fatimah. I barely felt the needle!"
Ms Chang Yan Jun, 25, a radiographer in SGH's emergency department, also got vaccinated yesterday. "At first, I was a bit nervous, but then, after taking the vaccine, I feel like actually, it is (okay). I don't have any (discomfort)," she said.
The vaccine was also rolled out to the staff at other public healthcare institutions such as Changi General Hospital and Sengkang General Hospital yesterday.
Staff at private healthcare group Parkway Pantai and Mount Alvernia and Farrer Park hospitals will get their shots starting today.
The Government has said that more vaccines are set to arrive soon, including those by American biotechnology firm Moderna and China's Sinovac.